The U.S. Cellular Center in downtown Cedar Rapids is one step closer to receiving a major facelift. The idea for renovating the center is not new but the prospect of receiving significant amounts of federal money for the project is. The chair of the commission in charge of the center, Patrick DePalma, says that key to the project is adding on a convention center to the current building.
DePalma says, We’ve estimated that the addition of a convention center would have an economic impact in the neighborhood of 15-million-dollars per year to the city." DePalma says the total cost of the project is about fifty million dollars. He says the payback period on this is only 3 to 5 years before they recognize benefits in excess of the costs of doing it.
DePalma says the plan could really help bring back the area. "I think it’s something that will definitely revitalize downtown and be a catalyst for other business and other economic development in the area," DePalma says. For just the convention center, DePalma estimates it would bring in about fifteen million dollars a year. Proposed improvements to the U.S. Cellular Center include better seating, concessions, and lighting.
DePalma says the commission will apply for funds from the U.S. Department of Commerce. He says the federal agency has expressed an interest in funding projects in Cedar Rapids and he says the money could come as soon as this summer. DePalma says the commission is also exploring the idea of a new hotel next to the proposed convention center. While money for a hotel is not included in the project, DePalma says he thinks it would generate more money for the city.